A UNION was yesterday accused of holding a city to ransom after threatening an all-out strike.
Swansea could become a city full of rotting rubbish and unburied dead if a full strike of public services goes ahead, the council claimed yesterday.
Gerald Clement, deputy leader of Swansea council, said public-sector union Unison is threatening to bring the city to a standstill with a "needless" all-out strike.
He said the union, which is fighting over the proposed privatisation of IT workers' jobs at the council, is living in a "1970s time warp where it thinks the only way to resolve a dispute is to hold a gun to the council's head".
The deputy leader's comments came as staff organised a march in the town centre at lunchtime yesterday to rally support for their cause.
Relations between the council and Unison show no signs of improving after the union gave permission for a strike ballot of all its members in the council.
The ballot of 5,000 staff is expected to take place within the next fortnight.
Mr Clement said, "Unison is holding the council and the people of Swansea to ransom.
"Unison is threatening an all-out strike and to halt vital public services over something that may never happen. Unison must realise that this is not a game; it is playing with people's lives.
"If Unison goes on all-out strike, are they happy for people not to be buried, weddings to be postponed, rubbish left in the streets, children not to be educated and the most vulnerable and needy left without vital support?
"The council has tried to resolve this dispute, it has been open and fair throughout this process, but Unison keeps on shifting the goalposts and changing their stance."
He said the union had decided to ballot all members despite reassuring the council that it would not do so while informal talks continued.
"We are living in the 21st century, yet the union appears to be caught in a 1970s time warp where it thinks the only way to resolve a dispute is to hold a gun to the council's head.
"This is completely irresponsible. Unison has been scaremongering staff over the future of their jobs in a bid to get their members to vote for industrial action. The fact is that there will be no compulsory redundancies."
But David Prentis, Unison general secretary, hit back at the council after the rally last night, saying it should concentrate on talks.
Mr Prentis said, "It is a bit rich the council all of a sudden being concerned about services when they were willing to spend £100m of taxpayers' money on a project which is doomed to failure.
"The council would be better off spending its time getting back into talks with us rather than frightening people with unsubstantiated claims."
But Mr Clement said Unison was invited, but chose to turn down, a place on the project board for Service@swansea, the new one-stop-shop for residents to contact the council, which is at the heart of the controversy.
And he insisted that IT staff had still been consulted "every step of the way".
Mr Clement added, "The council will not be deflected from this process. It has a responsibility to the people of Swansea to provide them with value for money.
"I don't believe that the people of Swansea want to see a single child losing an hour's education or a single bereaved family not being able to rest a loved one over a needless industrial dispute."
Meanwhile, the strike threat remains with many staff members determined to stand firm.
Caroline Hamer, an IT trainer and member of the strike committee, said, "I strongly feel that this strike is right, because in the public sector services are not driven by profit. The support has been absolutely tremendous. It is overwhelming and exhilarating.
"The union branch meeting of 700 members all voting to support us brought tears to my eyes."
Programmer Adrian Jones said, "I have never been on strike before, but I'm definitely determined over this. I think the management and council need to get their act together to resolve it."